Soon, probably just a few months from now, I’ll be looking back saying, “I remember the day when I said Joss Whedon and no one knew he was.” And of course I’m not talking about saying his name in the crowds at Comic-Con. No. I mean among the mundanes. The non-geeks. A couple-few years ago at a meeting among decidedly non-geeky co-workers I mentioned a Firefly quote. No one recognized it, and when I said Firefly, they wanted to know what the show was about. I explained, “It’s a western set in space and created by the one and only Joss Whedon.”
“You know, the guy behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Angel?”
And then someone in marketing said, “OH! Josh Whedon. Yeah, he’s directing an episode of Glee this season.”
Sigh. I corrected her pronunciation and moved on. I was weary of the mundanes ignoring Whedon or worse, looking down on him because he writes supernatural and sci-fi and a villain’s sing-a-long blog. I knew if they would just get past their snobbery over the subject matter, they would be enthralled by his stories. His characters. His Joss-ness.
And lo and behold, by Thor’s mighty hammer, etc., thanks to a little superhero flick called The Avengers, the world knows who Joss Whedon is. Our Joss. Out there, knocking socks off people who normally wouldn’t give silly superhero flicks a second glance. I couldn’t be more proud. He’s written and shaped something welcoming to non-fans, rewarding for super fans, something funny, something action packed, and something that makes you walk out of the theater wanting to high-five everyone and probably wanting to throw Cap’s shield or wield Mjolnir.
Basically, if you don’t walk out of The Avengers smiling, you need to get your head checked. As someone I know said, “ If anyone walks out of that movie and starts a sentence with ‘My problem with Avengers was…’ they are dead to me.”
In a recent thank you letter to his fans (he also discusses the whiplash of The Avengers box office smashing, you should read it if you haven’t), Whedon says:
“So this is me, saying thank you. All of you. You’ve taken as much guff for loving my work as I have for over-writing it, and you deserve, in this our time of streaming into the main, to crow. To glow. To crow and go “I told you so”, to those Joe Blows not in the know.”
I so am. But in a nice and welcoming way, not a hipster “I knew Joss Whedon when, and you’re just jumping on the bandwagon” way.
So. Regarding that film. You know, the one that everyone seems to be heading to the theater to see again and again (I know people who have seen it 5+ times). While I obviously have a Hulk-sized amount of respect for Whedon, he’s not the only force making The Avengers a raging success. Far from it. Besides the cast and crew, it’s necessary to give kudos to Joe Johnston, Kenneth Branagh, Jon Favreau, and Marvel for pulling and pushing together this universe and setting the stage so carefully. The bigger picture of the heroes coming together as a team could easily have been lost in the details of individual stories and personalities.
But the path was laid down step by step. The hints were dropped, the Nick Fury appearances were spread out, and all of it led to the doorstep of assembling the world’s mightiest heroes. Sure, that set-up and the result are not without flaws. Even so, it’s a pretty impressive feat. The foundation was built, and Whedon managed to tie together all the little threads into one of the tightest knit, coziest sweaters I’ve ever worn. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
I think what really gets me is that he managed to leave the imprint of his Joss-ness. When you have a film stuffed with big personalities, intense action sequences, a hella huge sandbox of an established universe, and an alien army, it’s got to be a challenge not to get lost in the special effects. I mean, think about the difficulties of making your dialogue memorable when you’ve got the Hulk running rampant and Iron Man’s suit coming together in an even more impressive way than the suitcase scene in Iron Man 2.
Yet Whedon nails it. That snappy conversation, the pop culture references, the beats, the little character moments and lines – it all shines through. His voice makes it past Thor and Iron Man duking it out, past Hawkeye’s awesome quiver, past the dazzling CG, and rises above. The trees don’t get lost in the forest, and that makes all the difference in this kind of film. All the difference.
And that is what Whedon brings to the table. I hope that the masses assemble for Whedon’s next project and the one after that and the one after that.